Le Corsaire – Pas D’Esclave Variation

I’ve made a few of these costumes over the past few years. As a stretch costume  it’s a snug and secure fit for younger dancers.

bodice detail

bodice detail

The bodice is not too deeply cut and extends comfortably down through the midriff as the dancer is young and good coverage was requested.


basque back

The basque reaches just short of the navel and is decorated both front and back. You can see the earring finding I’ve used.

front detail

basque and plate design

There’s a layer of glitter tulle in there for a bit of extra sparkle.

arm cuffs

some close-fitting arm cuffs complete the picture

and the tutu complete



Peasant Style Classical tutu

I had a request from a client in Adelaide for a classical tutu in the style of Giselle’s peasant pas dress. So we needed a faux corset and chemise, something that would suggest a little apron and some little sleeves.


little “apron”

A real apron would have looked silly on a classical tutu … (yes I think they look silly on peasant pas dresses too but don’t tell anyone) so I compromised and made a light net plate edged with silver venise lace.


faux chemise and corset lacing

The chemise is gathered stretch mesh and I used lycra strips as the corset laces. The little ribbon roses gave the tutu the sweet peasant look my client was after.


arm puffs

The little puffs were made of stretch mesh too to co-ordinate with the chemise.


et voila

The whole effect was rather sweet.


A client came to me a while ago for a tutu and asked if I’d make her a Maleficent costume as well. They wanted wings that could be easily removed in the early part of the choreography. Now before you get too excited, I don’t know ow to make wings and certainly not easily removable ones so I accepted the tutu job but sent them off to a costumier I knew in Bondi that does this sort of thing.

When they cam back for a tutu fitting they said they’d changed their mind about wings and could I make a costume with a removable long floaty cape. Oh yes … now that was right up my alley. Three metres of 6 momme tissue silk and a handful of magnets and here we go!


The costumier’s friends

Anything that is removed on stage in front of an audience needs to be done deftly and silently. Velcro won’t do it and snaps need serious pull to dislodge. For quick change costumes you best friend is a magnet. I use 12mm x 2mm neodimium magnets. They have a pull of about 600g and with 6 pairs of them I figured it would be enough for 3 metres of beautiful floaty tissue silk.

covered magnets

covered magnets

The magnets had to be placed inside the black mesh of a unitard so I covered them with flesh coloured powernet and sewed them into the costume across the back of the shoulders.

magnet sewn in

magnet sewn in

My aim was to have as little fabric as possible between the north and south poles of the magnets (It’s important to get that right!) so I didn’t sew them over seams.


magnet sewn in

Now while the magnets can be seen close up, at 5m they disappear and considering the audience is generally at 15 m they are for all intents and purposes invisible. The matching pair of the magnet was in the edge of the cape with just one layer of silk over it.

magnet in cape

magnet in cape

The magnets in the cape and across the back of the costume lined up and gave the look of a firmly fixed cape.

magnets atachment pts

magnet attachment points

The cape is 1.5 m long and 3m wide gathered and steamed onto a band the width of the back. Small magnets were also inserted into the wrist of the costume to give the impression of wings: Mission accomplished .. and NO WINGS!

back (3)

back of cape

When the cape is removed a deep low back is revealed on a black velvet unitard with gold embossing.

back (2)

deep back

Maleficent with her evil black silk cape.













Black Velvet and Ivory

People often ask how I find my fabrics and trims but it’s hard to say much more than “online”. I am inveterate hunter and gatherer of all types of trim and I’m always on the lookout for something a little different. I watch what other tutu makers are using and try to step aside from that so I’m very pleased when a client sees a tutu in a fabric or trim where I saw one too. This simple and elegant black tutu arose from that convergence of ideas.


black net lace

This lace is about 22cm wide with 2/3 of it being just sheer black net. I thought it would be perfect for a light overlay on a tutu.


motifs with rhinestones added


Each of the motifs can be separately cut from the net for use as a bodice decoration. While there are no mirror images there is enough irregularity in the designs to fool the eye a little to create a well-balanced but asymmetrical design.


tutu sketch

We planned an ivory skirt which meant the knickers would also have to be ivory. In the photo below you can see the front basque and one of the back pieces with a black velvet top and an ivory lycra bottom. The join is covered by the layers of net.

white pants

ivory knickers

I separately serge line each piece with lightweight lining. In the picture below you can see the pieces laid out onto the lining fabric. I cut roughly around each piece, pin and then overlock, trimming off the excess.


lining the pieces

I placed the individual motifs on the bodice in a pleasing arrangement then either photograph it or look at it in a mirror to get a different perspective to make sure the balance is OK. I decorate the bodice before I sew on the net as it’s much easier to sew appliques onto a leotard stretched onto a bodyboard than onto a completed tutu.


bodice detail

The design was so lovely and abstract I didn’t want to stop at the bodice so I carried it around the back making sure there was still enough stretch for the dancer to pull the tutu on without breaking the sewing thread.


back detail


I gathered the lace onto some narrow hat elastic and pulled it in snug around the high hip and then sewed the seam allowance to the top layer of net. The edge of the overlay was tacked down loosely with black thread to keep it in place.



The overall design was one of elegant simplicity.


finished tutu










Kitri has a lovely costume in Act One of Don Quixote. This is a fully stretch version for a young dancer. It is modelled on the Bolshoi costume. This costume has a 4 tiered knee length skirt and bodice with a laced corset.


skirt tiers

I built the skirt onto a full circle of nylon lycra. The 4 tiers were made of gathered stretch mesh and  trimmed with black and gold braid.


faux corset insert

I used a rotary cutter for the corset ribbons and zigagged them on. Since this effort I have decided to use looped tape to get a nice even placement of ribbons. I’ll post that method soon when I document my Swanhilda and Flower variation romantic tutus.


insert in bodice


The leotard has red pants to match the skirt. I placed the trim around to see how it would look. And then time for BLING!


gold venise lace and Czech rhinestones

and voila. I added a few little ribbon roses as well.



bodice decoration

and the finished costume.


Postcript: I do love it when I receive photos of my costumes in action. This is a fabulous photo showing how well the stretch mesh flies on stage



costume in action





Waltz Tap

My client wanted a Waltz Tap costume with an Irish green theme that would pop on stage, so we chose a lycra mystique for a bit of shine, heavy gold embellishment and a serious encrusting of rhinestones. This is the concept design I worked up.

concept sketch

concept sketch

My client wanted the deep V on the front and nude mesh down into the sleeves. There are lots of costumes with nude mesh across the shoulders but I wanted to make it a little different so I made a completely nude back and brought the nude mesh around the back of the arms as well.

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pattern development

Stretch fabrics are very forgiving and you are really only limited by your imagination. I wanted some nice curves in the cutaway sections so played around until I achieved something I liked.

piecing together (640x424)

playing with trim

I played around with the trim to see how it worked with the shapes I had created. The trim was fairly rigid so I wanted to be sure it would fit before I sewed it all together.

bling time (640x424)

blinging trim

Then it was time to bling.

handsewing trim (640x424)

handsewing trim

For some extra sparkle we used holographic nude mesh.

Dyeing (424x640)

dyeing stretch mesh

Waltz tap costumes often have long skirts. I like to use stretch mesh for skirts because it has a great drape, doesn’t need hemming and dyes beautifully.

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lovely drape

and then it was time to bling up the bodice. I used a mixture of crystal and acrylic rhinestones in different colours and sizes to give some interest.

front CU  (424x640)

textural sparkle

The effect was really quite lovely and I was very happy with the finished design.

three quarter profile (424x640)

front showing arm cutaways


front (424x640)

et voila




and of course there’s a little head-dress to match!


trim added (640x424)









Aqua and Silver-white

I got a call from someone who wondered if I could make a tutu for an eisteddfod only 4 weeks away. Usually, this sort of time frame is impossible but there was a tiny window of opportunity so we managed to pull together a pretty little tutu just in time. We chose a pretty aqua stretch velvet and teamed it with cool silvery lace.

velvet and lace (640x424)

velvet, venise lace and embroidered lace for overskirt

We teamed the silver lace for the plate and skirt with venise lace for the bodice. I added a bit of colour and definition with rhinestones.

vense lace (640x424)

venise lace bodice decoration

To add a bit of interest to the skirt, I popped in a layer of blue. I love seeing how these little wisps of net blend together. It’s a lovely preview of the skirt itself.

net trimmings (640x424)

net trimmings

The skirt grades down to white at the shortest layers so the tutu panties are also white. I always match the colour of the lowest ruffles to the panties. Here you can see the temporary basting line for the attachment of the net and a light zigzag keeping the white pants in place.


basque and panty (640x424)

faux basque and panty

The net itself is gathered by zigzagging over fine fishing line. The fishing line won’t break and even if you run out of bobbin thread you can just pick up where you started once you’ve refilled the bobbin. I learnt this trick very early in my tutu making career and I can’t imagine how I could have done without it!

fishing line (640x424)

gathering is done over fishing line

The edge of the plate is left raw but covered with venise lace. A small zigzag stitch in metallic thread is all that is needed. Just remember to put the rhinestones on AFTER you’ve sewn the lace to the plate. It’s no fun trying to dodge them with the presser foot!

sewing on vensie lace (424x640)

applying venise lace

Lightly ruffled, embroidered net lace is laid under the plate and stitched on. The edge of the plate and the edge of the lace are both loosely stitched to the net underneath. Here you can just see the light blue layer peeking through the top white layer.

plate detail (640x424)

plate detail

The rhinestones were added after the venise was sewn on and left to dry overnight before the plate was finished and sewn to the tutu.

I just managed to grab a quick photo of the tutu before it was whisked away on a very misty spring morning.

tutu (424x640)

tutu on a misty morning

Gravity Lyrical Costume

This is a little costume for a 10 year old. They wanted a crop top and shorts with a big bow at the back. We hunted through patterns and found this Jalie Ice skating dress and decided to make the crop top from this.


another fabulous Jalie pattern

I’m not a real fan of strappy costumes but this one is quite lovely. It has 4 narrow straps radiating from the neckband to the back of the costume. It’s almost a halter neck. I glammed up the elastic with some Czech rhinestones .


costume back

For the front I sewed on a few acrylic rhinestones that have a nice bling effect.

front bling

front bling

The finishing touch was the bow bustle and the back skirt in blue sparkle tulle. The bling in the middle of the bow is the dancer’s initial!

bow bustle

bow bustle

After the fitting we decided that a unelasticised wide waist band would be better s so I sent Mum and daughter off for cake and coffee while I changed the waistband (and made a wee bow as a hair piece and I needed to tweak one of the straps).


doesn’t the colour suit her!

The back of the costume is so cute … “someone” kept wiggling her bum and looking over her shoulder at it!



It was lovely to meet this lovely bright young dancer and her fabulous Mum! They even bought me a little present for squeezing them into my busy schedule!

Spanish Ice Skating costume

Last year I made a lovely Phantom of the Opera ice skating costume for a skater from Tasmania and this year I have been asked to make a Spanish style costume for her sister. The design is not mine (how I wish  could design like that!) but I am so looking forward to starting this one. The picture is not clear because I don’t want to post the original design until the costume is finished.


sketch and pattern

I decided to adapt Kwik Sew pattern 2601. This is a beautiful leotard pattern with a deep back. The costume will be made from black lycra, black and nude stretch mesh with a double layer black stretch mesh skirt. I have the perfect lace for this that I used on a Spanish tutu a few years ago. Oh and there will be rhinestones; lots of rhinestones, and then some. Did I say there would be rhinestones?


I’ll use this lace for the ice skating costume

Because the skater lives in Tasmania I sent the unblinged leotard down for a fitting, then back in the post to me for finishing. The safety pins indicate the skirt line.


finished and fitted leotard

The 2 layer skirt was cut from stretch mesh in higher at the left hip. I simply place the centre hole off centre (truly eccentric!) to give the sloped effect.

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eccentric skirt



When it came back I started applying the sequinned floral appliqués. These were cut from an embroidered and sequinned net fabric. This sort of fabric is wonderful as the appliqués can be cut from it with no fraying. It’s even better when the net and the fabric they are being applied to match although that’s not always necessary

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I pinned the appliqués to match the design, from the upper right bodice, left hip around to the back and the right shoulder at the back. then sewed them to the lycra while on the mannequin. This means that the threads are relaxed when the costume is off the mannequin and have enough slack in them for the costume to be taken on and off. The black plastic is there to stop me sewing into the mannequin fabric and for the next stage … stoning!!!

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placing the appliqués


the back has faux corset lacing

Next came the stoning. I used 4 colours, hyacinth, light siam AB, red and AB crystal.

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I love the textural effect


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side profile



Dark Bride – lyrical costume

My lovely ballet girl Emily is showing her versatility moving away from the peaches and cream tutu I made for her recently to a dramatic lyrical piece featuring a 9 metre black veil. We decided on a great pattern from Jalie. I love Jalie patterns.


Jalie patterns are fabulous

Emily wanted a black lace underlined with nude lycra and then I found this glorious sequinned black lace from Glitter and Dance.

Jalie patterns are great for solos and troupes as they come in 22 sizes in one pattern. From child’s size 2 up to large adult. The multiple sizing is particularly good for grading between sizes for custom sizing.


tracing off Emily’s size

And the costume fitted like a glove.


costume back


lyrical Emily